In fall of 2007, the landscape architecture firm of April Philips Design Works, Inc. and the landscape construction company of Cagwin & Dorward, in conjunction with Dixie Elementary School and numerous donors and volunteers, completed a Rain Garden in the drop off loop at Dixie Elementary School in San Rafael, California. The beautification project is a demonstration garden that educates the students and community about ecology, sustainability, as well as being a case study garden to advance sustainable landscaping industry practices beyond the current status quo. We especially wish to thank the Dixie Home and School Club and the Dixie School District for their generosity and support.

Located in a 3,800 sq foot median within the school’s main entry and vehicular drop-off, the derelict looking landscape had never been developed or planted due to insufficient school funding and water conservation requirements. The design team chose to design a garden that would reflect its Mediterranean, coastal bioregion and meet the following goals: 100% zero waste, pesticide free, rely on predominantly native vegetation, use only organic soil amendments to increase permeability and water retention of the local soils. In addition, to use only local recycled and salvaged materials, total reliance on seasonal rain water instead of irrigation and to be designed and built by 100% volunteer effort in order to be economically viable.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dixie School Poster

The raingarden presentation to the school assembly was tied into Dixie's "Curb your Carbon" program to kick off the anticipation of the volunteer planting weekend.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rain Garden Features

The features of the Dixie raingarden include:

- a shallow basin with gentle side slopes (usually four to eight inches deep);

- soil that allows infiltration;

- moisture-tolerant plants with deep roots to trap sediment.

- organic compost as soil amendments to improve soil health

- 3" vineyard mulch on top to retain moisture and protect plants

- 8" local drain rock below 3/4 of central area to function as a natural cistern

- 100% local, recycled or natural materials

- 100% zero waste

- pesticide free

- irrigation free

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Sustainable Approach

Up to 70 percent of harmful pollutants are introduced by storm water runoff: unfiltered water that reaches waterways by flowing across impervious surfaces: roads, parking lots, driveways, and roofs. Runoff deposits pollutants – via storm drains and sewers into our lakes and streams. Lawn clippings and leaves are also washed into our waterways, reducing oxygen levels and ultimately suffocating fish and other aquatic species. Water that comes off an asphalt roof onto an oil-stained driveway will flow across an over-fertilized lawn straight into creeks, rivers, and lakes.Rain gardens do the opposite. By integrating stormwater into building and site development, raingardens can avoid or mitigate the damaging effects of urbanization to rivers and streams, preventing Global Warming. By keeping stormwater close to where it falls, rain gardens reduce flooding and settle out sediments. They not only prevent stormwater from becoming contaminated, they actually remove pollutants from the water as it percolates through the soil on its way to becoming groundwater.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Environmental Benefits of Landscaping with a Raingarden

Water quality protection. Proper landscaping reduces nitrate leaching from the soil into the water supply and reduces surface water runoff, keeping phosphorus, and other pollutants out of our waterways.
Reduced soil erosion. A dense cover of plants and mulch holds soil in place, keeping sediment out of lakes, streams, storm drains and roads.
Improved air quality. Trees, shrubs, and turf remove smoke, dust and other pollutants from the air. One tree can remove 26 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually, equaling 11,000 miles of car emissions.
Lower summer air temperatures. Trees shading homes can reduce attic temperatures as much as 40 degrees. According to the EPA, urban forests reduce urban air temperatures significantly by shading heat sinks such as buildings and concrete, and returning humidity to the air through evaporative cooling.
Natural resource conservation. By using trees to modify temperatures, the amount of fossil fuels used for cooling and heating is reduced. Properly placed shade trees reduce house temperatures in the summer, allowing air conditioning units to run 2 to 4 percent more efficiently, but allowing the sun to warm the house in the winter.